When Can the State Be Sued?

Popular Government, Spring 2001

William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-205

4 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2012 Last revised: 29 Dec 2014

See all articles by William W. Van Alstyne

William W. Van Alstyne

Duke University School of Law; William & Mary Law School

Date Written: January 12, 2012


In her Popular Government article "When You Can't Sue the State: State Sovereign Immunity" (Summer 2000), Anita R. Brown-Graham described a series of recent decisions in which a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court barred individuals from suing states for money damages for certain violations of federal law, such as laws prohibiting discrimination against employees because of their age. In the response that follows, William Van Alstyne argues that this barrier to relief is neither unduly imposing nor novel. The debate over the significance of these decisions is likely to continue. In February 2001, in another case decided by a five-to-four vote (Board of Trustees of University of Alabama v. Garrett), the Supreme Court again barred an individual's suit for damages against a state entity, this time for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Keywords: federal law, state actor, recovery

Suggested Citation

Van Alstyne, William W. and Van Alstyne, William W., When Can the State Be Sued? (January 12, 2012). Popular Government, Spring 2001, William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-205, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1983351

William W. Van Alstyne (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

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Duke University School of Law ( email )

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